Okay, hear me out.
I know that everyone and their cousin is touting the importance of self-care.
You’re probably thinking if one more person talks to me about bath bombs or girls nights, I’m going to puke.
You’re a busy, self-starter, career driven (and killing it) lady, and you do deserve to take some self-care time.
But what if self-care wasn’t literally caring directly for yourself?
Dr. Laurie Santos, Yale professor and host of the Happiness Lab podcast, says, “Self-care doesn’t have to be selfish.” I just started listening to her podcast thanks to an amazing interview Dr. Santos did with Jenna Kutcher, the Goaldigger herself, and it really made me realize that maybe we’re missing the true point of self-care.
Dr. Santos says about improving our well-being, “One of the most shocking ones for me is a study looking at how simple interactions with strangers positively affect your well-being,” she said, adding that, even for introverts, “a simple chat with a stranger can make people feel great.”
You can learn more about this here (Association for Psychological Science) or here (this links you to the New York Times).
So self-care may have more positive benefits for us when it involves other people.
In the interview with Jenna Kutcher, Dr. Santos noted (and I’ll strongly paraphrase here) that doing small acts of kindness for others or volunteering helped improve well-being more than doing things just for ourselves.
I’ve started to test this for myself. For me, self-care has been buying dinner for a good friend and getting caught up post-COVID. Also, self-care has been going with a friend to do volunteer work.
That being said, if you’re sick of the same ol’ self-care, then it’s time to shake it up. Find a friend and go volunteer. Help out a neighbor (meet your neighbors, now there’s a challenge). Tell a stranger you like her blouse or hair or smile. Take care of yourself by taking care of others.
And if relationships of any kind are hard for you, book your 30 minute Discovery Call. I’m not just a life transformation coach for women, I can help you in all kinds of relationships or with dating. I’d love to chat with you, as you now know, taking to a stranger can make you feel wonderful.
Every day on Facebook in Women Living Without Limits and other Facebook groups that I’m a part of I find women that are struggling with loneliness and with making friends in adulthood.
There’s no doubt that as we age, community can be harder to find. And that’s why I have 1:1 coaching programs that challenge my clients to find community and to discover ways to end their loneliness.
However, before we embark on finding community, first let’s define it. What is community?
There are three definitions of community in the American Heritage Online Dictionary:
1. A group of people living in the same locality and under the same government.
Examples include Americans, Hondurans, Japanese, etc.
2. The district or locality in which such a group lives
Examples include Arizonans, neighbors, specific tribal affiliations
3. A group of people having common interests
Fans of a Sports Team
Star Wars fans
People who love books
Moms of teenagers
We will be using community in the third sense. A group of people having common interests.
Why do we need community?
Ever since COVID (or in some cases our early 20’s) community has seemed more elusive.
We have fears. Fears of getting sick. Fears of getting in arguments with people of different political beliefs. Fear of rejection. Fear of wasting our time or energy. And so instead of engaging those fears, we disassociate, and remain in our small worlds.
Also building community is a muscle, talking to strangers takes some practice. Putting yourself out there takes courage, motivation, and skills.
But we know from extensive study on the topic, that community/friendships are vitally important to our mental health and wellness. As part of the human race, each of us needs a space to belong. We need to feel connections. We are already members of communities whether we know it or not: your family, your neighborhood, your work colleagues all make up various communities in your life.
It’s important to note that communities constantly change. We move in and out of a particular community depending on varying circumstances from changing jobs, moving, death, differences of opinion, changing stages of life, changing needs, and growing interests in other areas, etc.
Community is THE PLACE to find comfort during difficult times.
When things aren’t going well in one community, we always have the option to try a different community. Connection with others helps us to stay balanced and find neutral or positive mental health outcomes.
I can tell you that at varying times I’ve felt very lonely.
I remember before COVID and when I initially started working for myself, a number of my closest friends moved away from Phoenix. I didn’t have a work community anymore, and my friends were moving across the country (literally). I had just become a mom, and I lacked the connections I once had.
And to know me, you know that my teens, 20’s, and early 30’s were times of so much community.
* I loved going to happy hour with my gal friends,
* I stayed in touch with my friends from college,
* I went to church,
* I was in the Peace Corps, to name some examples.
All of those communities shaped me, but during that season where I watched my communities dissipate, I struggled. My mental health deteriorated. And I hit an unexpected season of loneliness.
Luckily, I had the tools and knew the strategies for finding new communities. I literally built them around me, and now I have multiple communities where I feel supported, loved, and involved.
And that’s what I hope to teach you today. Here are five strategies for building community.
1. Talk to strangers. One of my closest friends from college who I am still friends with today, I met by picking up her pen cap and giving it back to her. It really is that easy. I’ve met people at parties, in lines to movies, at the bar, and all because I had the courage to say hello, make a connection, and introduce myself. You never know who you will connect with.
2. Search for people that have commonalities with you. When I didn’t know where else to go for friends, I went to places where people shared the same ideas. So church, the gym, meetup groups, Returned Peace Corps Volunteers, book clubs, etc. have all been places where I’ve found friends and other communities to be a part of.
3. Join Facebook groups. I may be a little biased as I facilitate Women Living Without Limits, but from my own experience I have met all kinds of amazing people in Facebook groups. Also, I’ve specifically held events to build community like the Virtual Happy Hour, Vision Boarding Made Easy, and now the Virtual Book Club. Outside of this group, there are groups for people from your states like Arizona Girl Gang, Age Groups, and even people who love Peloton or Costco.
4. Do good. Become part of a board or community service group. Walk dogs at the shelter, serve food to the homeless, or organize clothes closets for foster children. Whatever makes you happy. One of my best friends I met because I volunteered to serve on a board in my church. It was actually not the world’s greatest experience EXCEPT that I got to meet a life long friend and so that made it the world’s greatest experience.
5. Get to Know the Friends of Your Friends. I have made several friends thanks to attending parties of friends or through “being set up” by friends. Again, some of my closest friends to this day I met hanging out with other friends. I guess that old saying, “Birds of a feather…” is quite accurate.
I’d love to hear if you have other suggestions for finding community in the comments.
And I encourage you to take the first steps. You’re lucky if you’ve had a community find you. It’s usually the other way around. You’re probably going to have to make some effort.
Also, if you really don’t know how to start or where to find them, coaching is a great way to start taking steps.
We all know the importance of finding your community, and a coach can be there to help you brainstorm, set a goal, take action steps, and hold you accountable to taking steps to meet your community. I have coached on this very topic several times.
So, schedule a Discovery Call today to see if working together is right for you to help you find the communities you deserve.